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Nonsensical criticisms of Lotte

Mar 03,2017
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Lotte Group has never been a model company. People frowned at its rigid organizational culture, imperial management style of the owner family and fights over control. The company also was criticized for contributing millions of dollars to the Mi-R and K-Sports foundations.

Koreans have been asking Lotte to transform by criticizing it.

But lately, criticism of Lotte has gotten out of control regarding the site for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system. On Feb. 28, Lotte signed a deal with the Ministry of Defense to provide the golf course in Seongju, North Gyeongsang, as the site for the Thaad deployment in return for a plot of land owned by the military in Namyangju, Gyeonggi. Lotte was criticized for the deal domestically and internationally.

Chinese media fiercely condemned Lotte. State-run Xinhua News Agency’s editorial said, “China does not welcome Lotte.” It openly threatened, “Korea’s action would result in serious damage on national interests of China and other countries in the region, and Lotte, which has major presence in China, would suffer.”

More inconceivable is the response of the opposition parties in Korea. The Democratic Party’s policy committee vice chairman Hong Ik-pyo said that it symbolizes the crooked structure of the conglomerate, and in the United States, such a decision by the board of directors would be subject to breach of trust.

They have even less understanding of the situation than Chinese media. Xinhua pointed out, “It is understandable that Lotte is cooperating for national security as a Korean company, but it effectively sacrificed the security of the neighbor.” At least, Xinhua News Agency understands why Lotte had to provide the site, although it is against China’s interests.

In fact, it is not that Lotte offered to provide the site to the Ministry of Defense. It is realistically not easy for a private company to object to a government project. Moreover, the deal could incur a great damage in Lotte’s business in China. Lotte has invested more than 10 trillion won ($8.7 billion) since it expanded to China in 1994. Two-dozen subsidiaries are in business and nearly 20,000 employees and executives are in China. If Lotte had considered the consequences, providing the site would mean losing business.

It is not fair for the opposition parties to criticize Lotte, when they know the situation well. They are beating on the easy target. They seem to think Lotte is the weakest link and want to induce a retraction of the Thaad program.

Ruling and opposition parties need to work together on the Thaad issue. They should come up with solutions and plans with a strict diplomatic approach. It’s better not to do anything than beating on a certain company.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 1, Page 25


*The author is an industrial news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JANG JOO-YOUNG